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Alfred Dunholm

Reflections for St Dominic's Day

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Rather than simply prayers or role-played devotions i thought on this Holy day i'd simply try and explain the signifiance of the man whom we are remembering and I hope that it will be of interest.

 

Saint Dominic, otherwise and perhaps more accurately known as Dominic of Osma, was a 12th century born in Castile which is now a part of Spain. He lived through an extraordinary period and, though fate repeatedly conspired against him, he emerged from it as a shining model of everything that a Christian should be. He is best known as the founder of the Dominican Order, a Brotherhood of monks defined by their simple lives of devotion, and what follows is a list of thoughts on the man and on the world on this St Dominic’s Day.

 

In his formative years Castile went through a great famine and in the face of such horror, and to the shock of the others in the upper-class circles in which he resided, Dominic sold nearly all his world goods to the alleviate the suffering of the poor. Such action is clearly encouraged by the Bible, notably in the famous sequence in the Gospel of St Matthew “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”, but at this stage of history many rich individuals glossed over these verses or eased their conscience with pitiful acts of charity. It was not so for Dominic, and the devotion he showed then during his early years would come to define his life.

 

In the course of his work for the church Dominic travelled from Spain to Denmark via France and Germany, and while in the South of France he encountered a group of people referred to as the Cathars. These people lived as Christians but they were not a part of the Roman Catholic Church; they ordained women, lived in relative poverty, had slightly looser morality than Catholics in terms of sexuality but they were Christians nonetheless. But in addition to this the Cathars believed that it was possible to be Christian without the need for organised churches, and it was this belief that bought them to the attention of the Pope Innocent III who launched the Albigensian Crusades to wipe the Cathars out and thus preserve the position of the Church. Encountering some of the Pope’s representatives Dominic rebuked them, declaring that if the Cathars were indeed heretics then they could surely be persuaded back to the Church, he articulated this in perhaps his most remembered quote "Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth"

 

Though the Cathars could not be saved from the vengeance of the ironically named Pope, Dominic was nevertheless further shaped in his spiritual beliefs by these experiences. Later in life, and most famously, Dominic of Osma formed the Dominican Brotherhood and lived his days devoid of earthly comforts so as to become closer to God. This order survives to this day and still thousands are inspired by Dominic’s example to give up their riches and seek a life of prayer without the distractions and temptations posed by material goods. The applications of this story to our lives are very real and very obvious; the lessons that we shouldn’t cling too hard to world items are clear and evident to us all.

 

But Dominic also had something to teach us about religious tolerance in our world. Even with recent events in Norway, numerous terrorist attacks and countless minor acts of intolerance and violence that never make the headlines, we can still learn something from Dominic; a monk who died in 1221. If a religion is the one truth, and surely such a belief is the very foundation of faith, then no darkness is too deep or too great to overcome it. The words I have tattooed onto my arm are true; “Truth conquers all”. Amen.

 

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